|Bibimbap with Panchan|
Korea House is one of 10+ small take-out places in Food Gallery 32, the Koreatown food court on 32nd St. that opened up late last year. There's a seating area upstairs on the second floor and everything still looks shiny new and very clean. The options are interesting. Pastel offers Koreanized European (or is it Europeanized Korean?) food, including spaghetti with curry sauce or bulgogi, gratins with "bulgogi sauce" and seafood spaghetti with cream sauce. JinJ jaRoo offers Chinese Korean dishes like jja jang myon. Bian Dang ("lunch box" in Mandarin) offers a variety of Taiwanese options. Up front, there's a Red Mango for frozen yogurt and upstairs on the second floor, there's a place that advertises "Japanese-style crepes".
I waivered for a while among my choices, but ultimately ended up at Korea House, following the (unfortunately often faulty) logic that the longest line must yield the best food. The chigaes sounded wonderful, but given the hot weather and the fact that I didn't want to schlep around a tub of liquid, I opted for bibimbap, instead.
The summer-appropriate dish came with just a bit of ground beef; thinly sliced, sauteed zucchini; shredded, raw, green cabbage; shredded raw carrots; shiitake mushrooms; sauteed greens -- spinach, I think; what looked like julienned parsnips; a fried egg with a soft, slightly runny yolk; white rice, packed separately; and a medium-hot, standard-issue gochujang (red pepper paste). The bibimbap also came with three panchan: oi naengguk / cold cucumber soup; what I think was dried daikon radish, cut into strips and tossed with red pepper paste; and kimchi.
This was a fair amount of healthy food for $8.25, tax inclusive, and it was not bad, though it probably won't be the best Korean food you'll ever encounter. Vegetables were fresh and attractively julienned / sliced, but the biggest problem was that the food was very bland across the board, I suppose to make it more palatable to the largely non-Korean tourists who swarm the area. The kimchi will taste like water to most Koreans, with hardly any spice and no funk at all. The vinegary cucumber soup was delicious and hit the spot on this warm day, but I missed the slight punch of hot red peppers and fish sauce. Individual components of the bibimbap were not really seasoned at all, except with salt. Once you tossed them all together with copious amounts of gochujang, however, they made for an edible lunch.
I'm sure there are better options in the area -- including, perhaps, in Food Gallery 32, itself -- but for a quick pitstop after an appointment in the area, one could do worse.
Food Gallery 32
11 W. 32nd St. (between Broadway and 5th Ave.)
New York, NY 10001